Hi all - (sorry, another wordy response here . . . it is really hard
to be succinct!!)
Some good input on this question. First of all, I’d like to say that
the service of creating custom work is something unique that we can
offer for the duration of our careers. Satisfying a special order is
a special skill in communication and foresight on our part, that I
feel requires continual developing. My mentor was extremely skilled
at special orders and guiding the customer to a workable solution - in
a very timely manner. Showing images or samples of previous work
helps in communication, however, an ability to sketch on site during
the discussion is essential.
Looking back on my mentor’s ability to proliferate endless pieces
fascinates me even moreso now that I am also on the front lines in a
small way, once a week. I’m learning to trust myself better when I
feel strongly about a potential design solution (coming from the
customer’s request) that I am certain will not work properly in
solving a piece. When I don’t listen, I’ll usually get in big trouble
- primarily time wise! I am finding that it is more important to
follow the path of listening to (and trusting) myself, than to be
concerned with the possibility of losing the job. I think if we are
straightforward with the customer and they like our work, we may lose
that particular job - but by being honest, forthright and polite, we
won’t lose the customer. . . at least that would be my hope! As
an independent, I have to follow rules that work for my level of skill
I will never hold a customer to a piece - if they are not happy with
the results - I’ll just swallow it. My first priority is to have a
satisfied customer. If I am totally using my own raw materials - and
they chose not to keep the piece, then, I’ll just put it out for sale.
If I am to set the customer’s stone - say, with some of their
recycled gold or whatever -that is another situation - and I’ll make
sure we are talking apples and apples before going too far with the
piece (and spending too much time). But, it was my choice to make the
effort to satisfy their needs - so, if they are not happy - I’ll just
return the stone etc. and hope the next jeweler can fulfill the job.
Fortunately, I’m getting smarter in making choices of when to not
accept a job - and I think that is as important as saying yes.
When I tackle a difficult job - and it takes more time than the pay -
then, it immediately falls in the “learning curve” category . . . and
there are a multitude of opportunities for that category! Because of
my limited bench time hours, I can only add a few of those jobs to my
mix of work! The customer generally has no clue of the time and risk
it takes to do our work. It takes great skill and confidence (and no
doubt experience is the best teacher) to guide the direction of the
special order to a workable solution for both sides.
I also try not to kick myself too hard when I make a poor choice (and
don’t stick to what I feel is the best solution - because I am too
accomodating) and get in trouble! Fortunately, when this happens, I’m
usually too busy with other work to dwell on it and just carry on . .
. and hopefully be smarter the next time!
I always marvel at bench jewelers who can manifest wonderful pieces -
primarily designed by others. I feel their contribution to our field
deserves much more recognition! I’ll keep plodding along - but no
where near their level of ability!
Best wishes to you in your ventures,